WIU FMEA lab blog is departing … and Dr. Bonnan is evolving …

After years of running a website and managing two blogs (this one among them), I decided it was time to start fresh and consolidate everything I do into one, new digital domain: The Evolving Paleontologist.

First, I want to thank Heather McMeekan of Western Illinois University for getting me started in the blogosphere with Jurassic Journeys.  For the time being, you can still access the posts and pages here, although this site is now not unlike a fossil — it remains fixed “in stone” as it was.

Second, this site will be departing — I will now update student news and research at my new page, The Evolving Paleontologist.

Thanks to everyone who has followed or contributed to this blog, and I look forward to rejoining the blogosphere as the Evolving Paleontologist!

Dr. Matt

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

New podcast series on vertebrate anatomy by Dr. Bonnan

Just a brief post to let those interested know that Dr. Bonnan has a new blog, Along the Backbone, that acts as a discussion site and feed router for a podcast series on the evolution of vertebrate anatomy through deep time.

You can access the site here: http://alongthebackbone.wordpress.com/

You can follow the audio feed here: http://feeds.feedburner.com/AlongTheBackbone

Posted in FMEA News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dr. Bonnan featured among paleontology experts in a Nature news article on sauropods

Just a short post to draw attention to a new article in Nature on the evolution of sauropod dinosaurs from small animals into giants by Fredric Heeren.  I feel privileged and honored to be among the many paleontologists featured in the article.  Among the many paleontologists cited in the article are close colleagues and friends Adam Yates and Matt Wedel.  There are nice interactive graphics as well.  It is a wonderful feeling as a scientist to have your research featured in such a prestigious scientific publication.

Thanks to Fredric Heeren for a good, informative article on the early evolution of these amazing giants.  As Paul Barrett best puts it in the article, the sauropodomorphs are “the unsung members of the dino community”.

Posted in FMEA News, Jurassic Tweets | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dr. Bonnan and WIU students return from the field

Burpee Quarry 2011

The Hanksville-Burpee Quarry, June 2011. You can see the small vehicles and people at the left center of the picture, and the Henry Mountains off in the distance to the right in the photograph.

Dr. Bonnan and the WIU student crew had another fantastic season out at the Hanksville-Burpee quarry.  Check out the following posts and catch up on the latest dino news at Jurassic Journeys:

If you haven’t been following already, check out Dr. Bonnan’s tweets from the field and more @MattBonnan on Twitter.

Posted in FMEA News, Jurassic Tweets | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dr. Bonnan going to the field … and tweeting too!

From Dr. Bonnan:

I am preparing to go back out to the field and continue my work with the Burpee Museum (Rockford, Illinois) in Hanksville, Utah. Four WIU FMEA students will be joining me in the field: Chirstine Gardner, Hillary Parks, Collin VanBuren, and Shannon Worstell — look for pictures and/or movies of these students in posts to come.

We will be in the field from June 7-20, so stay tuned.

I am also now on Twitter (@MattBonnan), and I’ll be “tweeting” in the mornings and/or evenings (we don’t get cell phone signals in the field) about anything newsworthy from the day.

For those who may be new to the FMEA Blog and the Utah Dig, see the background information on the Hanksville-Burpee quarry and search Hanksivlle, Burpee, WIU, Jurassic, and sauropods at the Jurassic Journeys blog.

Posted in FMEA News, Jurassic Tweets | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What is Evolution? The Video

Dr. Bonnan has begun his foray into the world of YouTube with a short educational video on the theory of biological evolution that he produced with Dr. Christopher Schmitz at the University of Illinois Faculty Summer Institute (FSI).  You can link directly to the video at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nkqUXsJVFFk

Posted in FMEA News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mammal smarts linked to hair & olfaction

A new paper by Timothy Rowe, Thomas Macrini, and Zhe-Xi Luo entitled, “Fossil Evidence on the Origin of the Mammalian Brain,”should be of interest to our students and anyone who has wondered about the origins of mammalian smarts.

For more information on this fascinating topic, stop by Dr. Bonnan’s Jurassic Journeys blog about it.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dr. Bonnan and team report another new dinosaur from South Africa: Arcusaurus

Dr. Bonnan and colleagues reported on a new sauropodomorph dinosaur, Arcusaurus pereirabdalorum, in the newest issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.  For more information, see the Jurassic Journeys blog.

Arcusaurus skull reconstruction.

Arcusaurus pereirabdalorum skull reconstruction, (c) Yates, Bonnan, Neveling, and Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 2011. Scale bar = 50 mm.

Posted in FMEA News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

FMEA students present at Undergraduate Research Day

The FMEA lab made a strong showing at the Thomas E. Helm Undergraduate Research Day at WIU Wednesday, April 20, 2011.  We had three poster presentations, one oral presentation, and the Distinguished Alumna this year was none other than Katie Reiss, a former FMEA lab member!


  • Christine Gardner – Limb Bone Scaling: Afrotherian Allometry
  • Mercedes Taylor – Differential Long Bone Growth in Eutherian Mammals
  • Shannon Worstell – From Forelimb to Flipper: Comparing Limb Proportion Development in Terrestrial to Aquatic Reptiles and Mammals

Oral Presentation:

  • Collin VanBuren – Quantifying the Posture of Quadrupedal Dinosaurs: A Morphometric Approach

We are proud of our students and their strong showing at this event.

Posted in FMEA News, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Former FMEA student goes 3D!

I am proud to say that a former graduate student and alumnus of the FMEA lab, Ashley Morhardt, is part of Team 3D Alligator.  What is Team 3D Alligator?  The Witmer and Holliday labs have teamed up to make available an amazing variety of three-dimensional models of adult and hatchling alligator skulls.  Some of the cool things to see are reconstructions of the brain and other internal organs of the skull. Alligators and the crocodylian kin form an important outgroup branch that we dinosaur paleontologists use to constrain and “root” our anatomical reconstructions and inferences of dinosaurs as living animals.  This resource will be an invaluable tool to paleontologists, biologists, instructors, and teachers from K-12 and beyond.

It was a logical next step for Ashley to be involved in such a project — her M.S. thesis focused on archosaur skulls and inferring soft tissues around the mouth in dinosaurs.

Posted in FMEA News, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment